Welcome to The Game Shelf!

After getting into the board game hobby at the end of 2014, we've decided to share our thoughts on the games we're collecting on our shelves. The collection has certainly expanded over the last few years and we've been making up for lost time!

Sometimes our opinions differ, so Amy will be posting reviews every Tuesday and Fi will post on Thursdays. We hope you enjoy reading some of our opinions on board games - especially those for two players.

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Tuesday 15 October 2019

A new kind of R&B: Era: Medieval Age

Game: Era: Medieval Age

Publisher: Eggertspiele

Designer: Matt Leacock

Year: 2019

Era: Medieval Age is a 1-4 player Roll and Build game. Notably different from a Roll and Write game as instead of drawing on a paper sheet you are placing plastic buildings onto a player board. This allows for buildings to be removed and replaced as the game goes on, while still providing gameplay akin to a traditional Roll and Write. In Era you will be rolling dice to generate resources and then using those resources to build new buildings, all to create a flourishing medieval society. buildings provide a variety of different bonuses such as new dice to roll, income every round and end game bonuses.

At the start of the game you will take a handful of basic buildings to populate your board with before the game begins. Each round you will take your dice and roll them behind a screen. You can then set aside any dice you want and reroll the remainder, then set aside any more dice you like and take a final reroll. If you roll any die face with a skull then you must put the die aside and cannot reroll it. Once all players are done rolling the screens are removed and the rest of the round progresses. Players will then gain resources, feed their people (each die needs 1 food/round), assess disasters (based on skulls rolled), build new buildings and finally see if they invade any neighbors. This will continue until a number of building types have run out (depending on player count) at which point points will be assessed.

A large amount of the player interaction comes from the disasters, the results of rolling skulls on your dice. While some of these affect the player who rolled the dice, others inflict themselves that player's opponents. They vary from losing a few end game points for building your buildings too close together to placing blighted land on an opponents map or burning down one of their buildings.The core of the gameplay in Era is self-contained within a player's own kingdom. The game is a puzzle of how best to build a city to efficiently make use of land. How much to you trust your dice to generate the food you need? You could build farms to generate that food automatically, but they take up so much room and are worth so few points! Do you cluster your buildings together, it makes for a more efficient city, but should disease visit you then you'll be hit hard. But then building a hospital would solve that issue, so make sure you leave space for one when you can afford it!

All of this revolves around the need to wall off your city. While you don't need to engulf everything, every building inside a wall scores you double points at the end of the game, there's also a big bonus for having the largest area of walled city. The walls seem of extra importance for a 2 player game, ending the game before your opponent has finished a wall not only means a huge amount of bonus points for you, but all their buildings are worth half the points of yours. Since the number of buildings that need to run out to end the game is fewer in a 2 player game, and you have less of each building type, it's quite easy to rush the game if you find yourself in an advantageous position. This did make a couple of our games feel abrupt.

I have to say something about the look and feel of Era. I have never seen a game with such incredible effort put into design make such a basic error. The player boards are huge things made of pale-yellow plastic. Sure they are tough and high quality, but it is near impossible to see the numbers or symbols on the board. I wouldn't be surprised if the 'frequently bought with' section on Amazon soon includes a pot of ink! The buildings are all wonderful, chunky and well designed to make their polyomino shapes feel appropriate rather than abstracted. They look great out of the box and I could see the game looking absolutely incredible with a touch of paint applied.

Overall Era feels a little more of a proof of concept than a finished design to me. The idea of a Roll and Build is interesting, but there aren't enough things that make use of it to create a worthwhile upgrade from a Roll and Write. I do feel that it's possible to create a great game in this method, but it's got to involve more removal of buildings to make it seem worthwhile, perhaps an upgrade system of a sort so players are removing their own buildings? As it is Era feels like a relatively complex Roll and Write game that has been given a ridiculous level of deluxification. Is it worth playing? Certainly, but is it worth the price tag?


Era: Medieval Age was a review copy provided by Asmodee UK. It is available at your friendly local game store for an RRP of £49.99 or can be picked up at http://www.365games.co.uk

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